Autumn is settling in, the days are shortening and lights are already beginning to twinkle in neighbourhood windows. But these are not fairy lights - the countdown to Christmas is yet to begin. Instead, these are from the crackling flames in the fireplace. There truly is nothing like a fire to chase away the autumn chill! With a new lockdown in which to end the fractious year 2020, this is the perfect time to get back to basics and enjoy some of life’s simpler pleasures. Sometimes, all we want to do is curl up by the fireside, leave the phone on flight mode and the TV on standby while we allow the hours to slip by. We could even settle in and listen to some stories - it would make a change from the never-ending stream of fake news.
Once upon a time... Story-telling is an art form, and not everybody has the skill to spin a good yarn. It’s not about reading a story aloud or reciting a text from memory: a talented story-teller can bring a situation to life with nothing but their knowledge, imagination and a touch of improvisation. If we think back to our childhood, we can all remember someone in the family who could spin a brilliant bedtime story out of thin air. In all likelihood, however, they would not have been a professional story-teller of old, with a qualification and reputation to uphold. For centuries, professional story-tellers would flourish amongst illiterate towns and villages, and frequently fulfilled two key roles: in addition to simply entertaining others with fantastical stories, they provided a memory bank for the community, for all those who had not been instructed in the art of memory.
Centuries later, we may be better educated, but story-telling has given way to a fixation with numbers...
We now count our friends, our likes, our views and our social networks. This never-ending flow of photos, selfies and stories should galvanise our minds, stimulate our imagination and provide fertile ground for new and wondrous stories. Alas, our eyes are too firmly set on our fast-paced world to take the time to create and curate
. This perpetual movement is not new, but the sheer proximity and level of contact we have through our smartphones create addictions and prevent us from taking a step back to think and consider. We are too connected to the present moment to build stories about the past and the future.
.. Today’s story-tellers remind us of the need to keep a certain distance from the real world in order to deform, enhance and rework it in captivating stories
. Some of these story-tellers get together at the Inter-Cultural Story-telling Festival in Montreal (FICM), which brings together artists from every culture and nationality and has done so for fifteen years. The 2020 edition, cancelled due to the pandemic, has been transformed into an online event with ten stories you can hear directly from the event website
right up until the end of lockdown. Why not take the time to listen to a good, old-fashioned tale this autumn? In a time when time itself has lost all meaning, maybe “once upon a time” is exactly what we all need.
Text: Frédéric Martin-Bernard
Photo: Natalia Y - Unsplash